International Journal of English and Literature (IJEL) ISSN 2249-6912 Vol. 2 Issue 3 Sep 2012 43-48 ÂŠ TJPRC Pvt. Ltd.,
PRAGMATIC SOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEMS OF TEACHING ENGLISH TO ENGINEERING STUDENTS 1
UTTHAM KUMAR N & 2M. RENUGA
1Assistant Professor, Department of English, Adhiyamaan College of Engineering (Autonomous), Hosur, 2Professor, Department of English, Sona College of Technology (Autonomous), Salem
ABSTRACT Teachers teaching English to engineering students have been confronting a lot of hurdles while trying to structure the English knowledge to them. It is a known fact that the survival of engineering graduates largely depends on the skill of language. It has become a major window to showcase oneself in the job market. Eventhough it is well known that one should have the capability of attaining language skills and utilize them in a proper way, many fail to step forward. As a result of this, teaching and learning of English is always found to be problematic. This paper highlights the problems that bitter the language classes and solutions to those problems.
KEYWORDS: Pragmatic Solutions, Hurdles, Structure, Job Market. INTRODUCTION The society perceives an engineer as an epitome of skills and expects not only professional competence but also interpersonal felicity from him. The corporate houses also expect the same. If an engineer is strong in observing, and expressing his thoughts, he is more likely to form a constructive intuition and gain an understanding of his skills. In the contemporary globalized context, students of engineering and technology need a definite set of language skills for their achievements in education and career. The profile of a present day engineer must boast of well developed communication skills and high adeptness in English.
SCHOOLING It is a universally accepted fact that schooling provides the foundation to a competitive grasp over English. Statistics reveal that a around 40% of engineering students hail from semirural and rural areas. Their schooling would mostly be in government schools where teaching of English is mostly at rudimentary levels; often handled by staff members from other departments. This leads to a huge setback of over a decade for these students in comparison with their private school counterparts. This gulf is only emphasized only during the initial days of their engineering course, where the medium of instruction is
Uttham Kumar N & M. Renuga
almost always English. Even though most states in India provide a course in English in the first year of the engineering course, it appears as a case of â€˜too little-too lateâ€™ for the rustic students.
INFLUENCE OF MOTHER TONGUE The influence of Mother Tongue is one of the strong factors that affect the language learning process. A teacher is not supposed to teach English in regional languages which is considered to be a sin. It may be hard to grasp everything in the beginning but constant effort can make the students understand everything in English gradually when it is always done in English. Due to the influence of mother tongue, students lack exposure to language learning. Indians often face the problem of an accentuated influence of their mother tongue on their English accent. It is really tough to have a neutral accent in a multilingual nation like ours. Years of patient effort is required to cleanse the influence of the mother tongue and achieve a clear, unadulterated accent in English. Very few students end up with a natural style. Most often excessive enthusiasm leads to a practiced style which is apparently artificial. Contextual application of the acquired vocabulary is not understood and often misunderstood by students. Experimentation with words does not happen. Moreover, they often do not get an opportunity to talk in English outside the classroom. They often swap English with their mother tongue and this leads to very less improvement.
UNAWARENESS In most cases, English is treated only as a subject and not as a language in Tamil Nadu educational system. Here grammatical concepts are taught using structures and formulae which are stressful and tiring for the students. Students focus on their major subjects a lot and give less importance to English. The main reason for this is credits are given to the former and the latter is considered only as a supporting or additional subject. Students usually aim at learning the English language at an apparently marginal level. They just assimilate enough to communicate with their peers. The expansion of their existing vocabulary is rarely focused upon and this, over a period of time leads to the stagnation of their language. Learning curve faces grave danger from exam centric studying. Knowledge assimilation also faces near extinction due to this attitude of students and institutions. It is only before the placement that students realize hard that they lack in the necessary soft skills expected from any potential employee. There is total mayhem among the students and they rush to enhance their English skills only to realize that they have lost many precious years and are now on the brink of a crisis.
Pragmatic Solutions to the Problems of Teaching English to Engineering Students
LACK OF FACILITIES Most of our schools and colleges are ill-equipped in terms of necessary teaching aids- audio and video. The most common aid available to the teacher is the blackboard that too is often in a bad shape. Tape-recorders, TVs, wall-charts and other teaching aids, which the teacher would like to use, are often not found in schools and colleges. Language enhancement resources are aplenty and most institutions are more than ready to invest in them for the betterment of their students. However, the catch is that most tools, soft ware and laboratories are underutilized and do not serve their actual objectives. There is an absolute ignorance about the availability of support soft ware in some cases. Adding to the complexity is the fact that, most colleges focus only on the core subjects and language is inadvertently shown the backdoor
OUTDATED METHODS OF TEACHING A large number of teachers are still using traditional methods of teaching. Especially, GT method is present in one form or the other in schools and colleges. Grammar teaching consumes much of the time and the four language skills receive little attention. Oral work is ignored and the whole session is devoted to preparing students for the examination. By and large, teachers refuse to change and resent it too.
TRAINED TEACHERS Even if all educational institutions are provided with different teaching aids, they would mean little to an untrained teacher. At the secondary stage, teachers are appointed on the basis of their masterâ€™s degree. Once in the profession, there are no or very little opportunities for their in-service training, except for occasional seminars and workshops which virtually serve no purpose in their professional development. Professional development does not simply refer to the knowledge of English that a teacher possesses. It also means developing necessary skills that would make their teaching effective. A majority of teachers look towards an expert for a solution to their teaching problems. They feel that he possesses better knowledge of the subject and could have ready-made solutions for their troubles. They forget that the expert may not be familiar with their teaching situation at all. How can such a person provide any solution? Most of our teachers remain largely ignorant of the changes taking place in English teaching/ learning across the globe. They never bother to analyze why English is taught in schools and colleges and what is expected of them. A teacher who himself has difficulty in speaking the language he teaches is not going to succeed in giving his pupils a command of spoken English.
MULTIPLE TEACHERS Another issue which plays a dominant role in diminishing the English speaking skills of students is that too many teachers dealing with engineering subjects do not assist in these efforts. It becomes tougher for language teachers as they often wage a lonely war.
Uttham Kumar N & M. Renuga
ENVIRONMENT Language learning is faster during the formative years. A good percentage of engineering students originate from semirural or rural back grounds and unlike their, more fortunate urban peers, English for them remains a formidable â€˜subjectâ€™ from their schooling years. When they enter the portals of an engineering college, they become part of a heterogeneous mass where there is apparent variation in the English speaking credentials of the students. It is very challenging for the teachers too, as they cannot apply any conventional teaching techniques with much success. Most teachers have to resort to mother tongue translation to make understanding possible for the students.
READING Many students who lack fluency, hesitate to converse in English with their mates. They are apprehensive about committing errors and rarely indulge in using English as a medium of conversation. It is also noted that majority of the students are poor readers. Reading, as has been proven, is one of the most effective ways of language consolidation. Poor readers often have a shallower vocabulary and very little improvement is seen even after years of deliberate training. Very few students are proactive enough to take up language learning on a daily basis. Those who do it see an obvious improvement in their English proficiency.
PSYCHOLOGY It is even psychologically disturbing for them to grasp the nuances of a foreign language which many of their batch mates are so well versed in. This inability may even translate in an inferiority complex which once again proves a setback. This vicious cycle if not destabilized at the teething stage, may lead to disturbing consequences.
MENTORING Mentoring, which is one of the most required ingredients for success is found to be lacking in most institutions. Dynamic mentoring and continuous monitoring by a competent faculty member can create magic and lead to evident transformation in the communication and interpersonal skills of even a poor student.
CO CURRICULAR AND EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES Co curricular and extracurricular activities are meant to encourage a 360 degree development in the students. A survey of such activities in engineering colleges in Tamil Nadu does not justify this view. Most activities are based on their core departments and rarely upgrade the learning, listening, speaking and writing skills of students.
Pragmatic Solutions to the Problems of Teaching English to Engineering Students
DEPENDENCE ON THE INTERNET Too much of dependence on the internet is also a cause for concern. It is often noted that there is hardly any originality in the assignments and team projects done by students. The documentation area lacks in content and expression. The inability of students to give expressions to their technological thoughts in English that leads to weakening of the quality of the mass of scientific literature.
SOLUTIONS The students should be an active participator. He/she should actually speak, write, read and listen in the classroom. This means that the classroom should be noisier than the traditional English classroom where the teacher gives a lecture and the students listen passively. All round development in English in the right manner often requires quite a lot of unlearning. Research has revealed that so many students face multiple problems-spelling, accent, pronunciation, grammatical accuracy and so on. Cleansing their minds of inaccurate practices is extremely essential before their mind is fortified with right practices. Teachers need to tread new paths to sustain the improvement graph of students. The variations too have to be recorded. Teachers need to be extremely patient and positive towards their wards. They must experiment with different mediums of teaching like the use of offbeat reading materials, video clips, interviews of famous personalities, classic movies, news bulletins, distinctive accents of different nations, sport commentary, advertisement, jingles, and extempore games and so on. English language must be inculcated in such a manner that it becomes second nature to them. Spontaneity must be developed and encouraged. Students must be made conscious that their long term future can be pillared on their good communication skills. The presence of the teacher should not become the only motivation for students. They must be urged to be self motivators, and use English at any and every given opportunity. The more a language is practiced, the sharper one becomes in it. Sporadic practice sessions make one rusty. Expectations too must be realistic as one cannot expect instantaneous results and sometimes one may be faced with too many disappointments. There must be an ideal mixture of listening, reading and writing exercises. Speaking must of course be always on. The classroom must be a seamless interface for every student to bring out his/her best and presence of subtle levels of competition must be encouraged. It must be amplified to the students that superimposing of a borrowed accent or style may not sustain. They must rectify their own style and try to authenticate it.
CONCLUSIONS It is concluded that there cannot be any problem without a solution as far as the teaching and learning of English language is concerned. Eventhough so many ideas have been put forward to rectify
Uttham Kumar N & M. Renuga
the problems of teaching and learning of English language, it is inadequate because of failure in bringing out a realistic and practical way of teaching and learning. Hence, a continued pragmatic approach can help in formulating a better way of understanding and excelling in the field of English language. This approach is much awaited by both the academicians and the students.
Doff Adrian. Teach English. Chennai: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Saraswathy V. English Language Teaching. Chennai: Orient Longman Private Limited, 2004.
Aslam Mohammed. Teaching of English. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Published on Oct 20, 2012